Did Jesus tell jokes?
Have you seen Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ? If so, the scenes that stand out in your mind are probably those of Jesus beaten, tortured, and crucified. Eleven years after the movie release, I still vividly remember the 39 lashes (although not all of it, because I eventually had to close my eyes.)
With footage like this in the film, you may be surprised to discover which scene was actually most memorable for me. Here it is:
The last few seconds of that clip. That’s what really got to me. Jesus. Lord of all creation. Savior. Creator. Lamb of God. The Great I Am. Being playful with his mom. Laughing. A bit of a jokester as he splashes Mary.
This nearly blew my mind. It was a whole new image of Jesus I had never considered or imagined.
I do realize the “invention of the table” scene is not taken from the Bible, but from Gibson’s creative license. It still made me pause and ponder.
Jesus sitting on the mountainside, teaching his disciples. Jesus calming the storm. Jesus turning over the money changers’ tables. Jesus in the temple, listening and asking questions. Jesus healing the blind man. Jesus weeping. All of these I had easily envisioned for years. But, Jesus laughing? Smiling in amusement? Joking? This was a side of Jesus I had never even thought might exist. It never really crossed my mind to wonder if Jesus, sinless perfection, with the weight of the world on his shoulders, would ever have a lighthearted moment.
While out fishing, would he enjoy a good laugh with Peter? As a child, would he spin the dreidel with the other kids? While walking with his disciples, would he ever make them smile with a joke, or was it all parables and prophecy? This was a whole new side of my Savior I didn’t know. Does it really exist?
I’m not sure. I do know we are created in His image, and we humans like to laugh, to smile, to joke around, to enjoy moments of amusement both big and small. Is this modeled after our creator? Does God have a sense of humor, as they say?
I do know picturing Jesus’ laughing sets me free in ways the images of his death do not. I’m not simply set free from sin, I’m free to enjoy life. Free to laugh too. Free to have moments of absolute silliness and it’s absolutely ok.
This is a freedom I need to enjoy more, and I don’t believe I’m the only Christian out there for whom this is true.
I recently realized I am a lot more serious than I used to be. Some of the freedom and carefree enjoyment of each moment has slipped away. Not that I never crack a joke or laugh. I can be goofy around you if I am comfortable with you. I seem to be silliest with my sister. That’s probably because making my little sister laugh has been one of life’s greatest pleasures for me since my 40th month of life.
At other times, though, it seems to have gotten harder to experience this freedom. So, I ask myself – Why so serious? I think I can understand why, and I suspect similar events and thoughts are stealing the laughter away from other serious Christians as well.
I suspect events of the past few years have added the seriousness to my disposition that I don’t much care for. My father passed away, adding sorrow and a renewed sense of our limited time. My close friends have experienced some serious life struggles, causing me to realize a need for greater intentionality and deeper conversations and relationships in my friendships. My husband and I became group leaders at our church, adding a weight of responsibility for the discipleship of others.
Added to these events is the knowledge that people around me all day long are not following Jesus. They don’t know Him. If I accept the whole kit and caboodle of Christian beliefs, that means these people are on the road to hell. Fellow commuters in the cars next to mine. Coworkers at nearby computers. Shoppers in line with me at Walmart. Members of my family tree. Lost.
Add to that the fact that my time is limited. Before I know it, another 36 years will have passed and I will be pushing eternity. And that’s if I make it to the normal life expectancy. We all know, (at some level, even though we don’t like to dwell on it) that our time could be up any second. I’m not guaranteed tomorrow. This truth was driven home by a serious car crash in ’09 that involved me, my husband, and our SUV rolling over on the highway several times. It could easily have been fatal. Time is short. Maybe shorter than we think.
Heavy stuff. It weighs me down. There’s so much at stake. I feel so much pressure that there’s so little time and every conversation and every moment needs to be meaningful. I must be intentional with my time and efforts. At any moment, is there something else more important that I should be doing? A different conversation I should be having? I can feel that weight draining away the joy, the playfulness, the humor, and the lighthearted enjoyment of life in each moment.
I don’t think it’s healthy to be that serious. But, with all that I’ve mentioned going on in the world around me, it’s easy to do. It fills me with questions.
How can we be conscious of the world’s need for God, our limited time, feel the weight of it all, and still laugh? Is it ok to take things lightly? How can we not be serious?
Does Jesus model this? Can I still see Jesus laughing? Is that really his demeanor? Is it ok if it’s mine?
Am I too serious? Are many of us too serious as Christians? Do we take ourselves too seriously? Life too seriously? Make Jesus too serious?
What do you think?
What’s the healthy balance?
I apparently haven’t figured that out yet.
But I’m pretty sure I need to lighten up.